Update 2: Knowing When to Ask for Help

As my sixth week comes to an end, the amount of mental fortitude needed to be a successful researcher truly stands out to me. I sent a draft of my nearly completed paper to my adviser a couple weeks ago, and implementing her suggested revisions has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Revising a nearly twenty page document filled with sub-argument upon sub-argument requires a clarity and organization that is very difficult to reach. Social science research that is at its core theoretical represents a central puzzle underpinned by innumerable mini-puzzles, making it very frustrating. Furthermore, having faith in myself and trusting that, at the end of the day, I’ll have a final product that contributes something meaningful to the feminist and political science literature has been particularly hard for me this last week. I’ve compiled all of the data concerning the seventeen democratic party platforms between 1952 and 2017, and the results suggest some ways that I can reframe my paper. While I initially framed the paper in a way that suggested important parallels between the core feminist ideologies of liberalism and intersectionality, the results have a richer use in that they allude to the way in which feminist demands are translated into institutional discourse. An emphasis on translation and thus important differences/concessions that arise from the process of institutional incorporation is interesting for its ability to illuminate patterns of social movement and political party partnerships. I at first felt like using the results to reframe the focus of my paper was akin to cheating, but my adviser comfortingly pointed out that all research is iterative, meaning that a unique value held by results rests in their ability to pinpoint which questions can, and thus should be answered. Eliminating hypothesis and initial theorizing is all part of the process.

As the above information highlights, I’ve learned the importance of collaboration and support systems in developing one’s research. I was really stuck for a week on how to proceed, and I learned the importance of asking for help and direction from other researchers (my advisor). By pursuing self-designed, original research, I lacked the guidance provided in the traditional classroom setting. Followingly, I struggled deeply with my paper until I recognized the reality that research is fundamentally about community, teamwork, and mutuality, meaning that asking for help and direction is not a sign of weakness or inability, but a central part of the process. As the research process comes to an end in the next two weeks, I know that I’ll be struggling. While struggling can and will breed brilliance, it’s important to recognize when to ask for help, and I now know this.

Fellow researchers, remember to have faith in yourself and don’t ever be afraid to ask for help!

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